Last summer, one of my brothers planted tomatoes. The plants grew and produced blossoms, but the fruit never set. He theorized the high temperatures, both day and night, might be to blame. From what I’ve read this morning, he’s probably right. According to this article, “When temperatures rise above 85 to 90 degrees F (depending on humidity) during the day and 75 degrees F at night, pollen will become unviable.” Those temperature ranges certainly describe the kind of growing seasons in Texas the last few years. Daytime temperatures have, for years, risen well about that range, but it’s only within the last few years that I’ve noticed, in Dallas, that nighttime temperatures in the heat of the summer frequently don’t fall below 80 or 82 degrees. That’s a godawful hot, sticky night.
As I was scanning various news sources this morning, I read more about the impact our warming climate is having other crops. Okra is under cultivation farther north than it has been in memory. At the same time, there’s a decline in corn production in the Midwest due to temperature and rainfall; corn is being replaced by cotton and sorghum, both of which are more tolerant of water and temperature stresses. In the Midwest, the article notes, tomatoes and broccoli were unable to withstand the lethal combination of heat and drought. Goats, too, haven’t been doing so well, either.
These are not just isolated examples of the effects of climate change on our food supply.It’s not just Texas and the Midwest USA that’s dealing with climate change. Vintners in France have been receiving grapes for their wine earlier and earlier over the past several decades; warmer temperatures bring earlier harvests.
Lest you think I’m writing this as a rallying cry to do everything we can to prevent further warming of the climate, let me be clear: I’m not. Whether the vast majority of scientists (who argue that human activities are causing climate change) are right or not (I’m in their camp), I don’t think the human race has the will to change our ways.
In any event, I suggest that, for those of us fortunate enough to be facing the effects of global warming today, rather than twenty years from today, there are changes ahead that will influence what we eat, where we get our food, and when certain foods are available. I wonder if Canadian tomatoes will be more expensive than Mexican tomatoes? And will the Kansas City area be a good grapefruit producing area?